In July, I blogged about how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was proposing new rules intended to make it tougher for communications carriers and other companies to slip mystery fees onto customers' phone bills. As a Verizon Wireless customer for the past few years, I've encountered what I have perceived as a few instances of this practice of "cramming" first hand, including a particularly aggravating recent occurrence which is leading my wife and I to shop around for a new wireless service provider.When we received our most recent bill from Verizon, there was a $9.99 fee for "VZ Navigator," GPS navigation software that helps turn a wireless phone into a GPS navigation device. Several weeks ago, my wife's phone stopped working. She brought this phone and an older inactive phone she owns to a local Verizon Wireless store to transfer her contacts and data to the older phone. While she was there, a salesperson offered her the option of adding the VZ Navigator service to her phone, which she promptly declined.
Nevertheless, a charge for the navigation service ended up on our September bill, listed as "Get it Now" downloads. When I called Verizon Wireless customer support to resolve the issue and explained that we had not ordered the service, I was told that we'd still have to pay for the service for that month. To add insult to injury, I was informed that we would have to follow a series of prompts on the device to discontinue the service. It seems to me that since this was Verizon's error that they should have a means to terminate the service themselves. And we shouldn't have to pay for a service we didn't order. When we attempted to follow the prompts to terminate the service, it appeared that the navigation service hadn't been activated.
As I wrote about in the June blog, deceiving customers out of money is a sure path to destroying customer trust and eroding loyalty in an industry that's historically had high customer churn. Perhaps I'm over-reacting, but I feel like we've been deceived by Verizon.
That's because this isn't the first time we've had bogus or erroneous charges on our bill. Over the past year, we've inquired about suspicious charges on our bills three or four times, including applications we never downloaded which we were ultimately able to resolve with customer support at Verizon. It's altogether possible that the salesperson who had offered the VZ Navigator service simply entered the fee by mistake. But based on our prior experiences, we're having trouble believing this was a mistake.
We're nearing the end of our contract with Verizon and we're researching other carriers. We're not just examining pricing and services offered but we're talking to friends and acquaintances in our region about their experiences using other wireless providers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Like many people, we feel like we pay a lot for wireless services that are at best spotty and at worst untrustworthy. It shouldn't be too much to expect fair and reliable services at reasonable price.